When Lewis Carroll published Alice in Wonderland in 1865, I wonder if he had any idea that the seemingly innocuous side character, the Mad Hatter, would one day has his own day of celebration.
What makes this even more amazing is the fact that Carroll never set out to publish the adventures of the erstwhile Alice. The entire adventure was merely a tale told a young girl named Alice Liddell to entertain her during a rowing trip. Carroll was firm friend with her father Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church Oxford, and would regale the family with stories during visits and outings.
Young Alice was so taken with the yarn Carroll had spun that she begged him to write it down for her. He did so and made her a gift of an illustrated book entitled “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”.
He was later encouraged by his mentor and leading fantasy author, George MacDonald, to flesh out the tale which we would come to know and love as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and where we would meet finally meet the Mad Hatter.
The Don of Wonderland
Among the many unlikely friends and foes, Alice encounters on her journey is the off-kilter character known only as the Hatter.
The Hatter is described as being a jittery fellow who recites ridiculous poetry, disturbs the tea party by switching seats and on one scene is shown to dunk the poor dormouse’s head into a pot of tea, with the aid of the March Hare.
While many know the character as the Mad Hatter this was not the name Carroll gave him. The name stems from the Cheshire Cat who refers to the Hatter and the March Hare as “both mad” when speaking to Alice.
“Did You Know? In the 8th Century, mercury was used in hat making in a process called "carroting". Mercury poisoning drove some hatters crazy (mad).”
This added to the well know phrase “mad as a hatter” seems to have fixed the character's name in the minds of both ardent readers and casual fans alike as the Mad Hatter.
Mad Hatter in the Media
One of the Hatter’s instantly recognisable attributes is the top hat sporting the phrase “In this style 10/6” which referred to the cost of the top hat, 10 shillings and 6 pence. This attachment to 10/6 is also the reason Mad Hatter day is celebrated on October 6th in the USA.
In addition to making headlines each year when Mad Hatter Day celebrations roll around the character has been popularised over the years making appearances in books, film, television and even inspiring media and advertising company names.
Despite numerous iterations of the Alice in Wonderland stories over the years the most notable and perhaps infamous portrayal of the Hatter is the one found in Tim Burton’s Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016).
While Burton is known for his exaggerated set and character designs it is Depp’s Hatter who is central to the development of the film who is both terrifying and endearing. We follow Alice in her quest to save the Hatters family and so restore his mind which is beginning to fracture even more than usual sending him spiralling into madness.
Addressing A Dark Reality
In the current era, we are far more aware of mental health issues and how to deal with them, however, Carroll’s time sanatoriums were used as prisons for the poor, the destitute, the unwanted and the mentally unbalanced.
It is a little known fact that Carroll’s uncle, Robert Skeffington Lutwidge, held the title of Commissioner in Lunacy. A Function which had him, and allowed Carroll to, visit and inspect “lunatic asylums”. This gave Carroll not only an intimate understanding of what the psychiatric community was trying to achieve but also the plight of the people locked away in these institutions.
Research by Franziska E. Kohlt, Faculty of English Language and Literature, notes that Carroll’s portrayal of the Hatter shows a deep understanding of Victorian psychiatry. In Victorian institutions, tea parties were held as “therapeutic entertainments”.
She goes on to write that in that time period it was writers like Carroll who dared bring such an uncomfortable topic into the light to raise public awareness of the issue.
Mad Action on the Reels
The Hatter has morphed over time into a character who is seen as enjoying life to the fullest and who invites any who are in need of comfort to join him in celebrating it.
It is this quirky and entertaining aspect of the character that has also seen him appear in several online slots including these two amazing games:
✓Absolootly Mad: Mega Moolah by Microgaming
In Microgaming’s Hatter themed progressive slot, there is no mention of Alice rather the entire game focuses on the nutty and wealthy Mad hatter.
The reels of this classic 5x3 slot machine are filled with clever references to Lewis Carroll’s epic novels with tea cakes topped by either a smiling cat or a white chocolate rabbit, stacked teacups, a pocket watch and of course symbols bearing the face of the Hatter himself.
There are also gold coins to be collected. Each coin is stamped with a 10/6 top hat and gathered enough of them you will trigger the Mega Moolah progressive jackpot feature. The Mega jackpot is seeded with a minimum payout of €1,000,000 earning this slot the name of “Absolootly Mad”.
✓The Wild Hatter by Red Tiger
Red Tiger chose to draw their inspiration from Johnny Depp’s movie rendition of the Hatter for their slot machine The Wild Hatter. The lead character sports a flaming mop of red hair and a ghost-white face truly bringing out his Wild side.
The reels of Wild Hatter slot are filled with instantly recognisable symbols which include a pocket watch, chess pieces, a teapot, a top hat, the Cheshire cat and of course the Hatter is the Wild.
The slot machine offers an array of features including Win Multipliers, Respins, Symbol Swaps and more, all of which lead you ever closer to claiming its top payout of up to 3333x your bet.
Celebrating Like A Mad Hatter
While there are no special parades to celebrate this unusual character there is a lot we can learn from him and celebrate.
Enjoy time with your loved ones, take the time to connect with friends around the world through video chat, don’t be so afraid to express who you truly are and above all else take care of your mental health.